In The End… (aka: A Catch Up Post)

So.

It’s the day before my Official 30 day No-Yelling challenge, and I think I’ve figured out some things about myself. Which, hopefully, will help me figure out other ways to express my feelings before I pop and yell at the people (and dog) I love most in this world.

1. I am actually yelling before I realize I’m yelling. It took me looking at myself from the outside to realize this; there was a moment this weekend where I thought, Hey, wait a second, my voice is raised! when I wasn’t particularly angry, just kinda annoyed.

Looking at it from my husband and son’s perspective though, I would think I was yelling too.

2. I am more prone to yelling when I am trying to do too much at once. For example, I generally snap at nighttime, when I am making dinner, keeping an eye on the dog (so he doesn’t chew our moldings or pee on the floor), half-listening to Owen asking me to play with him, cleaning the kitchen and counters so I can get dinner on the table on time. Et cetera. I have very little patience at that point, which means I need to simplify.

Do less. That’s easy, right? 😉

3. I need more time in a day. No, seriously. I’m commuting 3 hours a day. Slowly, the time spent in traffic is sucking the soul out of me. I didn’t realize how edgy traffic made me until the day I pulled into daycare and screamed my head off – for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. (Thankfully the windows were closed and the kids were inside and no one witnessed me.) It was a bit of a revelation to me – I thought music was enough to keep me occupied.

The idea I’m wasting 3 hours of my day in the car, in traffic, kills me.

So I downloaded a book about dog training onto my iPhone. Wa-LA! I am now using that “dead time” to be productive – getting tips on how to train Finley.

And now I’m not counting the minutes I’m wasting in traffic because I feel like I’m getting something accomplished. Win.

So far, anyway. 🙂

4. I need to be kind to myself. 37 years of yelling when I’m mad won’t be undone in a day.

I’m well on my way, I think. For me, just being aware of my triggers is huge in terms of trying to change my behavior.

And the coolest thing? I’ve found women who want to do the same thing as me. We formed a Facebook group where we support each other in the challenge.

I just love knowing that I’m not alone in this.

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I ran my goal race last weekend – the half marathon I’ve spent the last few months training for.

I went into it with three goals.

The A goal was to break 1:45:00. This was aggressive, I knew, and I didn’t really BELIEVE I had the ability to run that fast for that long. I’ve had very few miles in my training that were run that fast.

The B goal was to break 1:50:00. This was the realistic goal for me – the one that would be hard but sustainable.

The C goal was to break 1:55:00. This was a comfortable goal, or if something happened mid-race like a muscle/tendon tweak or something.

Now, mind you, meeting ANY of these goals would have meant a personal best. My fastest official half marathon time was run this April; I clocked in at 1:56:31.

The race was hard. I never really felt comfortable – which meant I raced it like I needed to. But if it weren’t for my friend Jen, who ran with me in the middle miles, I might have gone slower.

But I met my B goal. I finished in 1:49:15.

I’m thrilled with this time. Seriously, I ran my first half marathon three years ago, in 2:18:18. And since then I’ve taken nearly a full half hour off my time.

It’s shocking and empowering and exciting stuff. And gives me SO much hope for my fall marathon training.

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The Career Stuff. Yeah, it’s still hard. I have been considering quitting my job altogether so I can be home more. It would simplify some things, for sure. Laundry, groceries, housecleaning, bills. All me. Jeff could focus on his work only.

But it would also complicate things, too. Money would become an issue. And back in the day, when Jeff and I sat on a beach in Fiji, we talked about living a life where money wouldn’t be an issue.

Course, we also talked about balance, so it’s not like there’s not complications there.

What I have the hardest time with is the fact that I am currently working mostly part time. Yeah, I spend three hours in the car when I’m at the client. But this week? I’ve worked only two days. And I make good money.

I could trade that for a job closer to home, where I make half of what I make now. It’s still accounting – I could do bookkeeping pretty damn easily. It’s just, well, I can’t get excited about taking ANOTHER accounting job for less money.

I wish I had clarity or passion for ONE thing. I am so envious of the women who knew in high school or college what they were going to be when they grew up. Those women had a vision and goal and passion.

So that’s why it’s so hard to take the step and stop doing what I’m doing now. I’m hoping to find that magical place of balance. I don’t need to LOVE my job, but I also don’t want loathe my time there, either.

I keep telling myself I’m doing the best I can with what I have today. It’s all I can do.

So that’s my update. For now anyway. 😉

My 30 Day Challenge: This is Going To Be A Tough One.

So here’s the thing.

I’m a yeller. I was raised in a family of yellers. My family yelled when we were happy, yelled when we were sad, yelled when we were angry, yelled when we were having fun. We just… yelled. It was part of the family identity. Hell, it’s hard to find a family in my town of New Jersey that DIDN’T yell! It’s just what we did.

Thing is. I married a New Englander: a man who grew up in a family of Not-Yellers. And though I contributed DNA to our son in the form of coloring and eyes, he’s pretty much a carbon copy of his father in personality and temperament – with a little more chatter, maybe.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I yell far more than I’d like to. I yell because I struggle with patience. I yell because I struggle with having my words heard. And I yell because I swear to god there are days my words mutate in the milliseconds they hang in the air – by the time they get to Jeff and Owen, all they hear is: “Wah WAH, waah WAH.”

I am like a balloon that keeps inflating when this happens. I say it a little more passionately – while feeling, come ON! Just LISTEN TO ME!

And then all of a sudden I’m yelling. And I’m angry. And it’s effective, of course. Both Owen and Jeff listen to my words if they’re said angrily.

The problem is, I don’t much LIKE the emotional fallout of the yelling. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I don’t like being angry all the time. I don’t yell at people at work – because it’s disrespectful. And I shouldn’t yell at home, either – at the people I love most in the world.

And yelling is not effective – honestly, if the only way my kid and husband listens to me if I’m yelling, what does that say about my communication skills? Not much that’s good, for sure.

Yelling is a bad habit, and I want to break it.

And via the beauty of social media, yesterday I stumbled upon the blog The Orange Rhino. And the author of the blog committed to 365 days of Not Yelling, and her experience with it is so eye-opening. I love how she blogs her struggles so honestly, and I love that she’s committed to making her family better.

I want to make our family better. I am so lucky to even HAVE this family, and they deserves better from me.

But I can’t do a 365 day challenge – it’s overwhelmingly long.

But what I’ve discovered with my running: it usually takes about a month for me to find my groove: that space where it doesn’t feel as hard. Where my muscles don’t hurt as much when I’m not running or running… and I stop THINKING about it. It becomes habit.

So I made the decision last night.

I am committing 30 Days of Not Yelling in June.

Except I’m starting The Challenge a weekend early, because that’s what I do. (I’m not kidding, either. I start my New Years Resolutions in November so they’re habit by January. Yes, I know it’s OCD and ridiculous, but I like getting a head start on resolutions. :))

I have the feeling that this is going to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve undertaken.

But I’m up for the it.

I’m blogging about it because I want you all to keep me honest. I want to share with you the ups and downs of my Not Yelling Challenge in the coming days and weeks. Because the act of writing this post commits me to it: it will act as a contract on the days where I need to scream in frustration.

There HAS to be a better way. I’m committed to finding it. Will you all help?

Having Enough: Egg-Free Banana Muffins

I struggle with insomnia a lot. Anything that wakes me from 2:30am on is a near guarantee that I’ll be awake for hours; I’ll JUST be falling asleep at 5:30 when my alarm will ring.

So when Jeff’s alarm rang this morning at 3am, I knew the rest of the night would be a tough one for sleep.

He’s deep sea fishing today, you see, with his uncle and two cousins. And he wanted to try his hand at striper fishing before he got on the boat. As much as I don’t understand fishing – really, the last boat trip I took I puked the whole time – I know it makes him happy. And a bonus: he brings home fish so we can have fresh fillets.

Anyway. Of course insomnia kept me awake, then the birds, then it started getting light out. I dozed fitfully until it was about 6:30, and I knew the dog would need to go out and I had to start my day.

Two ideas got me out of bed today: coffee and fresh banana muffins.

Owen was diagnosed with an egg allergy at a year old. What might have been a mild allergy which he might have quickly outgrown *MIGHT* have been made worse by his ignorant parents continuing to feed him egg-fortified pasta. For the next 6 months.

I wish I was kidding.

We didn’t put two and two together until he was 18 months old, when he started reacting to the pasta itself.

But. Every year, we head to the allergist to measure his egg allergy level. Which, to be fair, has abated over the years. But it’s not low enough, yet, to allow us to participate in a challenge.

And he’s aware that he has allergies. He’s been to the emergency room twice because of them – once from a cashew, another from hornet stings. And he’s heading to kindergarten next year, where we can’t police his lunch. As his mother, it’s my job to teach him that he needs to advocate for himself. He knows he can’t have baked goods, because most of them have egg in them. He knows he needs an epi pen for bee stings and tree nuts.

Sometimes he gets sad about it, like the day we were in the airport at Starbucks and he refused a bagel breakfast, because, Bagels are SO BORING, Mommy. I want something GOOD. That I’m NOT allergic to.

He knows whenever there’s a birthday celebration at daycare he can only have the ice cream cup we left for him. Or cookies which we pack for him.

And he has bonded with my mother and best friend when they’ve shared with him that they’re allergic to certain things.

So whenever I can, I try and find recipes for baked goods which don’t call for eggs or tree nuts. It’s more work – everything needs to be made from scratch, of course.

But it’s enough. It gives him the ability to have a muffin for breakfast for a special occasion.

And I kinda feel like a supermom whenever I make them. 🙂

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These banana muffins are awesome – you can’t tell they’re “allergy sensitive!” muffins.

The recipe allows for fresh bananas, but since I cannot eat a banana when it has a spot on it, I tend to freeze mine when they get too ripe for me to touch. I’ve made this recipe with both fresh and frozen bananas and I prefer the frozen/thawed bananas. Somehow freezing condenses them so the final product tastes more banana-y. (Yes, that’s a word. It’s on the internet. Therefore it must be true!)

Egg-Free Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium bananas (approximately 1 cup when mashed)
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

"
(Look ma, no eggs!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 12 muffin cup pan with cooking spray (you can use butter if you’d like, too). In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through salt) and mix well with a fork. (The brown sugar tends to clump, so make sure you break it down so there are no sugar balls!) Add bananas, oil, apple juice and vanilla and stir vigorously until completely blended.

It’ll look like this when it’s combined:

A side note: the banana yumminess will make it impossible for your new puppy, who has just discovered the wonder of Real People Food, to refrain from begging for some of the batter. Ignore his cuteness and do NOT allow him to lick the spoon. (Because that spoon will be all yours when you’re done!)


(Please, please, PLEASE share with me??? Look how cute I am!!!)

Now, the original recipe I found says that this makes 12 muffins.

It WILL if you fill the cups in your muffin pan 3/4 of the way full.

Except then it makes muffins without a top. And seriously, who likes topless muffins? I like my muffins overflowing – with real TOPS. So that is why I only make 10 muffins from this recipe.


(I admit that my OCD Inner Self struggles with this. Those two empty cups! They HAVE TO BE FILLED!)

Bake your 10 (0r 12 if you prefer to have no-top muffins) at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Mine are usually done around 16 minutes or so, so err on the side of early. The muffins are done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean.

Cool for however long you need, or eat right away.


(See how awesome they look? With tops!!!)

They’re tasty with – or without – butter. I’ll pack them in Owen’s lunchbox for a snack as well.

My early morning today, though?

Warm right out of the oven, buttered. With a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper.


Bliss.

Having It All. Except Not Really.

I am of a generation of girls who was raised to value strength and intellect and fairness. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I focused and worked hard. I’m the generation of Title IX sports, where I could play baseball and football and organize races with the kids the neighborhood. I was raised to believe I was equal in every way to boys, and there were no limits to what I could do when I was a grownup.

And so, when I got my MBA nearly 15 years ago, I decided I’d be a CEO. To that end, I spent my first years in business working as many hours as possible. I changed careers – picked accounting because I knew it would be recession-proof, and it was intellectually challenging. I loved it those first years, before I started burning out. There was just so much WORK. Busy seasons were grueling – I worked every weekend and most days from 7 in the morning to 9, 10pm.

And then I finally got pregnant with Owen. And I worried. How would I make those hours work when there was a baby at home? I mean, honestly – I worked 80-90 hour weeks up until the day I delivered my son. It was my last day in the office, and I was squeezing in doing a friends’ tax return at lunch when my water broke. I spent the afternoon in the hospital waiting for him to be born, on my Blackberry, letting my clients and managers know I wasn’t coming back that day because I was having a baby.

It became clear to me that I needed a change. So I took 6 months when he was born – an extended maternity leave. I figured it would give me a chance to try out the stay at home thing, give myself a break from the working hours. I figured it would be refreshing not to have to go to work. I’d surely be on top of everything around the house!

There were a few things wrong with that picture. I was not a confident parent early on in Owen’s life. I wasn’t much for schedules, and he was an abysmal sleeper and therefore a fussy baby. I spent that time with him completely sleep deprived and stuck in the house, because we never really had a “good time” to go out. And there were days I never even got a shower.

Quite honestly, I hated it and assumed I just wasn’t meant to be a stay at home mom. So I went back to work.

And for the past four and a half years I’ve spent my days working while Owen is in daycare. He is thriving, and I have no regrets about the decision. For us, it was what was best for our family.

The thing is. Being in the business world is HARD. It’s 24/7, and it’s a constant stress, even when we’re home. Not just that, but it’s hard parenting when you AND your husband consult. We aren’t always in the the same place, which makes things hard to plan. Our days right now are spent juggling meetings and being at clients and our work schedules. We’re fortunate that Jeff is working from home right now, so when I’m needed at a client site we have a little more flexibility, but that will go away this summer.

And Owen goes to kindergarten this fall. And for some reason, I’m feeling strongly that I want to be there when he gets off the bus every day. Maybe it’s because I can hold him accountable for homework and studying. Maybe it’s because time is going by so quickly and I want more time with him every day. Maybe it’s because I don’t find accounting rewarding anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of sitting in my car for 2-3 hours a day stuck in traffic. I’m not entirely sure.

But here I am. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that I should just quit my job.

It is so interesting to find myself in a place where I feel like I have a lack of motivation – or drive. I can’t really believe I’m thinking about hanging up my CPA and my MBA in order to stay at home and raise my family. Where I’m CEO of my house, not a corporation – or even my own small business.

Plus, I have an only child. Often, I think, Really, Karen, how hard is it to coordinate the schedule for your ONE kid to get to and from school?

So many working parents have to content with multiple kids and multiple schedules – and I can only imagine the logistics required to make that work.

But as I sit here, looking at the piles of mail that we’ve stacked up because we’ve been too busy to go through it and recycle/shred it, I am realizing that it’s not really POSSIBLE to have it all – at least not in the definition I’ve lived for the past 37 years.

I recently read this article by Beth Woolsey: 20 Things Every Parent Should Hear. And it was #19 that got me: Balance is a myth. Parenting isn’t a tight-rope walk; it’s a dance. Strive for rhythm instead of balance, and trust yourself to move to the ever-changing beat.

It’s impossible to be everything at once: Super Worker, Super Mom, Super Wife, Super Friend, Super Organized, Super Volunteer, Super Baker-of-Cookies-Just-Because, Super Writer, Super Painter, Super Runner, Super Cook, Super Blogger. I can’t be all those things – if I tried I’d keel over from stress and anxiety and exhaustion.

So, really, then, it’s a matter of focus. Focusing on what’s needed in the here and now. If that means my career takes a backseat in the coming years so I can focus on other things, then so be it.

How do you find rhythm in your family life? What choices have you made in order to maintain the dance of your life?

The Runs.

Okay, so a running update.

Last September, I ran a half marathon with one of my best friends. Two weeks before said half marathon, I turned my ankle in the dark on a training run, and thought it was sore, I didn’t really think much of it.

And then. Literally 15 seconds after we started the race, I turned to say something to her… and turned the very same ankle in a small groove in the middle of the road. Badly this time.

Probably it wasn’t the best decision to run the race anyway, but that’s what I did. Honestly, after mile 4, I felt very little – some twinges here and there when we walked through the water stops, but nothing awful. We finished 2 hours and 17-some odd minutes after I turned my ankle, and within minutes of stopping I found I couldn’t really, well, WALK at all. My ankle swelled to massive proportions on the drive home that day, and for three weeks I hobbled around and couldn’t run.

During that time, I had a lot of time to think. About what I was doing with my running, how I was approaching it, and my goals.

So I did what any person who couldn’t run does: I decided that I’d run a marathon in 2013. 🙂

Except THIS time, I was going to do whatever it took to make sure I wasn’t injured this year. I talked with my PT, who helped me rehab from my ITBS. I hired a running coach to help me get my running form back, who would keep me honest over the winter. I did PT exercises on my ankle and my IT band and strengthwork at the gym. I ran when my coach told me to, didn’t run when he told me not to.

And the biggest thing: after looking at my spring half pictures, the day I broke two hours in a half marathon, I looked heavier than I had in 2010, when I finished the Smuttynose half marathon. I had put on muscle, yes, but I also had put on fat. So I also started counting calories on myfitnesspal.com so that I could shed some weight.

Since then, I’ve lost 15lbs, and am at my lowest adult weight ever. And I am back logging regular, consistent mileage, peppered with speedwork sessions, strength training, and long runs.

A month ago, I ran a half marathon in Central Park in 1:56:31, a personal best from my last half marathon of more than 3 minutes.

And couple of weeks ago, I ran a local 5k and ran a personal best by a full minute and forty seconds – my official time was 23:15.

So running, right now, is going really well. Even the hard runs give me something to take away. Like last week: in one run I gained confidence that I can keep running a number of miles when my legs are really fatigued without losing pace. In another, I figured out that I’m really bad at tempo pace and I need to focus some workouts on that.

Every run I do is leading towards a goal race.

My goal race this training cycle? Boston’s Run to Remember on Memorial Day weekend.

My ideal time goal is to break 1:45:00. Realistically, I’ll be happy with anything under 1:50:00. And if it’s hot, I’ll aim at 1:55:00, which is still a PB for me.

And honestly, it’s kind of insane that I’m looking at these numbers.

Because I remember the days where I’d need a gel at mile 4.5 because I had been running an hour – where I had to walk a hill I regularly use as my warmup. I remember the days where running my 6 mile loop around town felt like a really far run. I remember my first 5k, where I walked multiple times and finished at 32:48. The day where I ran my farthest distance – 6 miles – and realized, holy shit, you can run as far as you want. It’s actually possible!

It’s not been that long since my first race – 4 years ago this August.

So really, I kind of have no idea what I’m capable of as a runner. I’m just going on faith and working hard and making sure that I put all the pieces in place in the hopes that I can do something awesome.

Which is kinda how life works.

So here’s hoping. 🙂

Puppy Love.

I haven’t written in this space for so long, I might have actually forgotten HOW to write.

(Seriously, people. I opened the “New Post” page this MORNING. It is now 6pm and I have been sitting here, staring at this page, all day.)

And yes, I spruced up the place too. The picture at the top is one of my favorite places in New England – Acadia National Park.

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So. An update then?

Well, the biggest life change we’ve made since I last posted: during the week of the Boston Marathon bombing, I saw an article about a couple of golden retriever therapy dogs, who had visited Newtown after the awfulness in December and then again in Boston that week.

I think it was that Thursday morning, as I sat in traffic trying to get over the Tobin Bridge, when the thought struck me.

I want a therapy dog of my own.

Now, mind you, this didn’t come out of nowhere – last fall Jeff and I started discussing the idea of getting a dog. For many reasons, it seemed like a good idea. Since, given our history, Owen is likely going to be an only child, we thought it would be good for him. A dog would be a good playmate, a companion for him has he grew up. And, too, we thought it would teach him responsibility.

But really, it’s because I miss having an animal. We’ve lived a year now since Puck died and I missed having that unconditional love; someone who is ALWAYS glad to see you.

Except we couldn’t decide on a breed – lab or golden? Or whether we wanted to get a rescue dog, or a shelter dog, or what. And then, well, the WORK involved scared me.

But in that moment on the Tobin Bridge, I told Jeff (via phone, of course) that I wanted to get a puppy. It was great timing: it was spring, Jeff is working from home until the end of June and I’ll be home most of July. Really, there was no reason NOT to move on it.

Well, except for one thing.

Confession: I kind of don’t really LIKE puppies.

I know, that makes me an awful person. I mentioned it, once, to my neighbor. Her reaction was as if I told her I was an axe murdered. All she could say, over and over, was:

Who doesn’t LIKE PUPPIES?

I don’t. I mean, they’re cute and all. But they’re slobbery and chew on everything and jump up on people and pee on floors and steal your stuff and have I mentioned they chew on EVERYTHING? Over the years of living with my parents, I think my mother brought home 2 or 3 puppies. And I hated them all – they bonded immediately with my mother, tolerated me, and then chewed all of my stuff.

And the other thing: I believe that there are Cat People and Dog People in the world, and you are one or the other. I, personally, am a Cat Person. Out of all the animals in my house when I was growing up, it was Rusty cat who was my favorite.

But Jeff’s allergic to cats and I kind of am too. Plus I wanted a running buddy. And really, at the end of the day, dogs LOVE EVERYONE. Cats? Not so much.

So anyway. The desire for a dog won out over the reservations, and we found someone local who had golden retriever puppies. And we got one – a little boy we named Finley Huckleberry.

And he’s so sweet. He was the one, out of the three puppies we saw, who patiently waited for Jeff to give him a pet before he came over to me, while his brothers nearly mauled me with happiness. Despite Owen trying to get him to jump on him, he just laid down and watched the three of us. And the first few days, he didn’t make a sound – just slept and ate and wagged his tail and whimpered when we put him in his crate.

He’s a puppy though. And a golden, who are notorious eaters of everything.

Really, I thought people were kidding when they said that they’d eat everything. I had heard stories of dogs chewing through wood and drywall and whatnot. But hell, not all dogs were like that, right? Right?

Nope. Finley does, in fact, eat everything. Moss. Leaves. Sticks. Rocks. Mulch. Dandelions. Bamboo. Grass. Plastic. Shoelaces. Wood. The stuffing in his toys. Paper. Labels. Tinfoil.

It’s like he views the world through one question: Is it edible?

Also something I had heard but did not really BELIEVE: having a puppy is EXACTLY like having a baby.

Except worse, because when you have a newborn you can stick a nipple in his mouth in the middle of the night and you don’t have to be OUTSIDE. There was one night when I was outside in 40 degrees with a pokey baby dog who, you know, hadn’t actually figured out how to do his business on command, and I really questioned what the hell I was doing. Why did we get a dog again?

But then, you know, now that he’s sleeping in his crate, through the night, and he greets me at the door all happy and loving and wants to bring me all his toys to chew on in my lap and when something scares him he whimpers and comes over to me for a snuggle…

How can you resist this face? 🙂

Maybe I AM a Dog Person after all.